Archive for the ‘blogs’ Category

200 Protest APA’s Sanction of Psychologists in Abusive Interrogations

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

USA Today reported on Saturday’s Psychologists for an Ethical APA rally, which PHR co-sponsored.

BOSTON — About 200 demonstrators rallied Saturday outside the convention hall where some 14,000 are attending the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association to protest the role of psychologists in military interrogations.

Psychologists have traditionally played a part in questioning of U.S. captives done by the military or intelligence agencies. Some psychologists have criticized such work during the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism effort as a code of ethics violation, while others say eliminating the psychologists’ participation would make the interrogations more harmful for detainees.

At the two-hour rally, groups of psychologists, including Psychologists for an Ethical APA and Psychologists for Social Responsibility, as well as human rights organizations, including representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International, blasted those psychologists for their part in the Bush administration’s practices. And they say they’re outraged over the APA’s acceptance of psychologists’ participation because of what they say are human rights violations by the government.

“Who would have thought that the APA — whose code of ethics mandates a respect for basic principles of human rights and holds psychologists ‘to a higher standard of conduct than is required by the law’ — would be so reluctant to prohibit psychologists from participating in interrogations from Guantánamo to Abu-Ghraib,” Nancy Murray of the American Civil Liberties Union in Massachusetts told the crowd. “The APA has justified this ‘policy of engagement’ by stating its involvement is intended to stop unethical interrogations.”…

Intermingled in the crowd were protestors carrying signs with slogans such as “Do No Harm” and “No Torture/No Collaboration.”

Nathaniel Raymond of Physicians for Human Rights, a health professional organization that has been outspoken about abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, told the rally, “It’s about restoration of the values that define us. It’s not just about interrogations. It’s about who were are in the world.”

The rally was all the more poignant following Thursday’s revelation in the Daily Kos that a licensed psychologist, US Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zierhoffer, ordered the torture of a juvenile detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

The Daily Kos was quickly followed by reports in the New York Sun and the New York Times.

From the Sun:

It is the first time a military psychologist belonging to a biscuit team is publicly known to have been asked to give testimony in a Guantanamo court proceeding. The woman’s response suggests that military psychologists are concerned about either their professional licenses or criminal liability.

Court papers filed on behalf of the detainee, Mohammad Jawad, say the psychologist had, in 2003, advised an interrogator to put Mr. Jawad in isolation in an effort to facilitate interrogation, a person familiar with the detainee’s case and who has seen the unclassified legal papers said. The interrogator had sought out the psychologist’s advice because of a concern that Mr. Jawad’s mental state was deteriorating, the person said, adding that Mr. Jawad had been observed speaking to posters on his wall. The psychologist apparently rejected that layman’s diagnosis and believed Mr. Jawad was faking and recommended isolation, the person said.

Nine weeks after Mr. Jawad was removed from a month of isolation, he tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide by either hanging himself or repeatedly banging his head, the source said.

“What is so disturbing about the Jawad case,” the source said, is that the psychologist “is calibrating the level of harm.”

The Times quotes Steven Reisner, who is the front runner in the upcoming election for the new APA president.

“This is what it’s come to,” said Steven Reisner, an assistant clinical professor at the New York University School of Medicine and a leading candidate for the presidency of the psychological association. “We have psychologists taking the Fifth.”

Dr. Reisner has based his candidacy on “a principled stance against our nation’s policy of using psychologists to oversee abusive and coercive interrogations” at Guantánamo and the so-called black sites operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The ACLU’s human rights researcher, Jennifer Turner, is blogging at the Daily Kos, directly from Guantanamo, where she is covering the pre-trial hearings of Mohammed Jawad and two others. She elaborated:

[A]ccording to Jawad’s defense attorney Maj. Frakt, in September 2003, “when an interrogator observed Mohammad talking to posters on the wall of the interrogation room and was concerned about his mental health,” instead of calling a mental health professional to care for him, they summoned the BSCT team, whose psychologist made a “cruel and heartless assessment and recommendations.” Maj. Frakt called the BSCT psychologist’s report, which was classified secret and therefore not discussed in detail in the open court session, “the most chilling document of all.”

In an environment such as Guantanamo, health professional psychologists, who are healers and safeguarders against harm, have taken a back seat to behavioral scientists—whose job it is to callibrate pain and abuse.

Broken Laws, Broken Lives in the News

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

In addition to the news coverage already mentioned here, Broken Laws, Broken Lives has been mentioned and discussed in many other places over the last week. By no means an exhaustive list, here are some other news sites and blogs that have covered the report’s release.

News Media

Blogs

Major General Taguba is “a Study in Honor”

Friday, June 20th, 2008

So wrote Nicholas Kristof, and so seems to be the sentiment all around the blogosphere. Building up to his mention of Major General Taguba’s Preface to Broken Laws, Broken Lives, Kristof writes:

One of the most shameful episodes of the post 9/11 era has been the way the U.S. Government — particularly the Pentagon under Don Rumsfeld — oversaw the torture and abuse of supposed terror suspects, even though there often was little or no serious evidence against them. We’ll remember Guantanamo the way we remember the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Yet in this disgraceful episode, there have been some people fighting to salvage the nation’s honor. The defense lawyers for the Guantanamo inmates have done superb work, courageously bucking the political tide. The courts haven’t done so badly either. But some of the people I’m most impressed by are the military lawyers and other officers who saw what was happening and were so repulsed that they blew the whistle loudly — offending the Pentagon and sometimes shortening their careers. They went against their cohort, their bosses and to some extent their culture, for the sake of terror suspects of different nationalities and different religion, simply because they thought what was happening was illegal or inhumane.

Major General Taguba’s remark was also picked up by Dan Froomkin on his Washington Post blog, Andrew SullivanJake Tapper, Jill Hussein CThink Progress, the MoJo Blog, TChris (TalkLeft), On Deadline, firedoglakeKevin Drum, a number of Daily Kos dairies, and many more

A number of bloggers, like TChris and Jill Hussein C, seem pessimistic about the likely impact of yet more revelations about US torture. Andrew Sullivan is, however, outraged:

I started this war not as a Bush-hater, but as a Bush-defender. I started it dismissing the first rumors of torture at Gitmo as enemy propaganda. But no one with open eyes could have believed that it was made up even four years ago, let alone now. But, yes, with every new revelation and every spurious defense and every new lie, it is impossible not to feel anger. In fact, in my view, it is vital to feel anger. And not to let it subside.

Firedoglake blogger looseheadprop suggests further that the particular revelations in Broken Laws, Broken Lives have special significance.

The PHR report not only catalogues what the prisoners say happened to them, it includes the steps taken by the physicians to corroborate via physical exam, including bone scans and other testing to establish proof of scarring consistant with the stories told by the prisoners.

In seems that the interrogators focused their work on injuries to soft tissue believing it would not produce lasting scars and it would be the word of a detainee against the word of the US government.

However, some of the electroshock treatments left scars on the skin and some of the beatings left telltale scarring on the bones. Not noticeable to the naked eye, but provable with a bone scan. What PHR has done is put together the kind of forensic evidence needed to actually convict in a war crimes court.

I’m not saying that the information in this report, or the underlying backup documentation make a triable case all by themselves. I doubt that it does.

But this is a HUGE development in terms of the feasibility of bringing a war crimes trial and actually getting a conviction

Major General Taguba:

After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.

The former detainees in this report, each of whom is fighting a lonely and difficult battle to rebuild his life, require reparations for what they endured, comprehensive psycho-social and medical assistance, and even an official apology from our government.

But most of all, these men deserve justice as required under the tenets of international law and the United States Constitution.

And so do the American people.

Stephen Soldz on BLBL and Medical Complicity in US Torture

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

PHR’s friend, psychologist Stephen Soldz, discussed Broken Laws, Broken Lives today on his blog, Psyche, Science, and Society. Soldz observed that in addition to “medical evidence supporting torture claims, and evidence of the severe long-term effects of the abuse,” Broken Laws, Broken Lives also “provides abundant documentation of the extent of medical and psychological complicity with the torture.”

In no case did medical personnel report abuse. In many cases they patched up detainees to facilitate additional torture:

“[W]hen the doctor had finished treating him, “I heard the doctor say ‘continue’ (to the interrogators)”, p. 21.

The cases where medical personnel were “helpful” are just as disturbing:

““[The doctor] helped me … he told the soldiers, ‘If you go on torturing him in this way, he will die’,” p. 85.

Not surprisingly, detainees did not report psychologists consulting in interrogations (SOP called for these psychologists to not identify themselves, an interesting ethical issue in itself). But treatment psychologists were perceived to be collaborating with interrogators:

“Haydar indicated, however, that he suspected the psychologists shared information with the soldiers,” p. 48.

And:

“While in Camp Delta, Youssef asked to speak with a psychologist because he was distressed, and the two spoke about him missing his family and his feelings of sadness. Although Youssef believed the meeting was confidential, he stated that shortly after the psychologist left, he was brought to an interrogator who immediately brought up information connected to his disclosures, such as telling him that he was going to stay at Guantánamo for the rest of his life and discussing his family (“Don’t you want to leave this place and get back together with your family?”…If you do as we tell you, you can get back to your family.”). He stated, “I figured out the reason they had called me for the interrogation was because the psychologist had told them about the meeting.” He stated, “They were stressing these fears very much.” Following this interrogation, Youssef reported that he was moved to the “worst” section in Camp Delta, where he was not allowed to have a blanket or a mattress,” p. 58

After the publication of this report, any claim that psychologists helped keep detentions or interrogations “safe or ethical” are completely unsupportable. Psychologists, and indeed, all medical personnel, regardless of their personal characteristics, were simply part of the apparatus of abuse. As Maj. Gen. Taguba — who was driven out of the military because of his Abu Ghraib investigation– states in his preface:

“And the healing professions, including physicians and psychologists, became complicit in the willful infliction of harm against those the Hippocratic Oath demands they protect.”

If we do not stop this complicity, we thereby ourselves become complicit. After this report, we can no longer say “We didn’t know. We thought they were helping.”

 

CNN, Boston Globe and Daily Kos Cover BLBL

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Broken Laws, Broken Lives has been getting major coverage from pretty much the instant of its release. In addition to the AP wire story:

Daily Kos blogger Metor Blades gave PHR’s new report fulsome coverage on the front page of the most trafficked political blog on the internet.

It is impossible to escape a mixture of sadness and fury while reading the 149 horrific pages of the just-released report published by Physicians for Human Rights and called Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by the US. Sadness for the victims. Fury for the fact that American citizens have paid for the ghastly criminal acts of guards and interrogators at U.S.-run prisons in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and Afghanistan. Sadness that Americans are now seen as torturers worldwide. Fury that high officials who ordered these acts are not digging holes and filling them up every day on some penal atoll.

The torture those officials authorized has been revealed over the years in bits and pieces. We’ve seen the photographs. Newspaper stories, magazine articles and a dozen books have been written. There have been previous scathing reports, including two by PHR. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have delved into the matter. There was, of course, the Army’s 2004 investigation into what happened at Abu Ghraib. And, better late than never, Senator Carl Levin began presiding Tuesday over three days of hearings on the subject, Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody.

For the first time, however, Broken Laws, Broken Lives has added grim evidence gleaned from medical tests, both physical and psychological, of 11 former detainees. Unique stories, but with a theme that cannot – and must not – be ignored. The evidence was gathered and evaluated under strict internationally recognized standards and procedures for determining whether someone has been tortured or ill-treated and for documenting the consequences in a manner so that the results can be used in court. These standards are part of the Istanbul Protocol, Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the United Nations in 1999.

Towards his conclusion, Blades reflects:

Broken Laws, Broken Lives makes for nightmare reading. But it is imperative that it be read. And acted upon.

You can download free copies of the full report or the Executive Summary on the home page of this site.

Physicians for Human Rights, 2 Arrow Street, Suite 301, Cambridge, MA 02138 | brokenlives[at]phrusa[dot]org | Tel 617.301.4219